From the very beggining of this forum a lot of technical, historical and tactical questions regarding Bismarck had been circling, specially around the technical criteria.
I´ll try to sum up these positions and questions so we can discuss them in a way that, at the end, we can have results. First I must state clearly that this are not
my opinions but the sum of the opossing criteria over Bismarck. This must be clear enough.
I´ll take only the technical arguments because we can conclude from them. If we talk tactics or commanders then we will never finish.
Ok: One theory, in favor of Bismarck, came from the myths surrounding her and from books like the baron´s and others. The other theory came from positions like Jon Parshall´s Combined Fleet and such that state, without hesitation, that Bismarck was a mediocre Battleship. Some books are in favour of this criteria like Robert Henson "WWII Warship Guide".
To do it I must break the contrasting positions in parts (or chapters) that can be considered alone and not confusing one with another:
I./ Bismarck design and characteristics.
The Bismarck was, at May 1941, the most modern Battleship operational. Her design was a masterpiece in both, armour and armament. With a PC/TC relation of 17/22 with a 70% pf her lenght consisting of 17,540 tons of armour (for a total displacement of 50,900 tons, one of, if not the heaviest ) and a main battery of 8 x 380 mm L/47 and a impressive rate of fire.
The Bismarck was a descendant of WWI Bayern-Baden Class BB. As such she inherited a lot of design problems and weaknesses of that kind of vessels. Her belt armour was too shallow, not deep enough, her gearing systems, as the rudders, were not protected enough or properly. The three shaft - propeller arragement was faulty and her gunnery defective: the shells often didn´t detonate and the firing direction was lousy. The Richelieu Class, for example, was clearly superior in comparison, and South Dakota Class could have beat Bismarck anytime.
II. Bismarck´s at Denmarck Straits
Bismarck´s very accurate fire direction finished the Hood with effective plunging fire. The Hood´s weaknesses forced Admiral Lancelot Holland to approach in such a way that the British Squadron was, at the beggining of the fight, in disadvantage. Schenider´s accuracy was proverbial and the hit wasn´t lucky but precise. After finishing Hood the Bismarck was capable of sinking the badly damaged PoW. It was Lutjens´ decision not to do so. Lutjens´s, in fact, saved PoW of a certain death at the hands of Bismarck presicion fire.
Bismarck´s sinking of the Hood was a lucky hit, nothing more. As a matter of fact the German Fire Direction wasn´t that good and the shells defective. PoW was victim of her own mechanical failures and was forced to break combat. But is she would have stayed she wasn´t in that class of lethal danger. The POW´s skipper was at fault for breaking combat. An example of this was the damage that PoW did to Bismarck, including a hit below her main belt and the bow´s near crucial hit.
III. Bismarck vs. Swordfish
At that time Bismarck had a remarkable AA battery. The fact that she wasn´t able to shot down a single slow biplane was due to an AA concept of 1941. The hit on her rudder was a very lucky one. No Battleship (we can go farther stating that NO WARSHIP) in the world could have endured better than Bismarck such a blow. Even most modern designs as Iowa or Yamato wouldn´t have done better.
: The Bismarck amount of AA was insufficient and with lousy fire direction. Only that explains Bismarck´s inabillity to shot down such a slow and vulnerable Swordfish biplanes. The hit at her rudder was most likekly a lucky one but the effects were a product of her mediocre design. The Bismarck three shaft arragement and vulnerable rudder disposition and structure were responsible for the lost of the ship. An Iowa, a Yamato or even a South Dakota or Richelieu Class would have done much better.
IV. Final Battle
Bismarck´s was able to absorb all the punishment the British did throw to her. With her rudder´s damaged and doing 7 knots without governability she wasn´t able to seriously damage or sink at least one of her opponents. At the end her own crew scuttled her to avoid further pain to them and deprive the victors of a prize.
Bismarck was a victim of all her failures. Not even doing 20 knots and with her rudders undamaged she wouldn´t be able to save herself of the impending doom. The British punishment was brutal and the torpedoes of Dorsetshire sign her end.
Well? Anything else to add? These are the two positions. The thruth must lie between them, maybe something of one is correct but the rest doesn´t or viceversa. Well...